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Dear Friends of Wireless Messaging,
Welcome back to The Wireless Messaging News.
I am sick and tired of reading this junk in the news saying, “Outmoded Pager Technology Is Sapping HIT Budgets” and similar headlines. Reporters are running around, wringing their hands — claiming to be cool and “in the know.” They have just “discovered” that pagers are obsolete. What a bunch of baloney.
Reminds me of “The sky is falling!”
We all know that paging services have suffered great attrition since the cellphone systems have expanded their coverage so much, and are giving away free cellphones to anyone who will sign a contract.
In fact, I saw a lady interviewed on TV recently who had about a dozen free cellphones — given to her because she is poor!
Who can possibly compete with that?
However, we know that Paging Technology is still more reliable that cellular telephone service, and pagers are still being used by many health professionals, and first responders.
I guess I am the self-appointed cheerleader for paging.
Back To Paging
Now on to more news and views.
Wayne County, Illinois
A new issue of the Wireless Messaging Newsletter is posted on the web each week. A notification goes out by e-mail to subscribers on most Fridays around noon central US time. The notification message has a link to the actual newsletter on the web. That way it doesn’t fill up your incoming e-mail account.
There is no charge for subscription and there are no membership restrictions. Readers are a very select group of wireless industry professionals, and include the senior managers of many of the world’s major Paging and Wireless Messaging companies. There is an even mix of operations managers, marketing people, and engineers — so I try to include items of interest to all three groups. It’s all about staying up-to-date with business trends and technology.
I regularly get readers’ comments, so this newsletter has become a community forum for the Paging, and Wireless Messaging communities. You are welcome to contribute your ideas and opinions. Unless otherwise requested, all correspondence addressed to me is subject to publication in the newsletter and on my web site. I am very careful to protect the anonymity of those who request it.
I spend the whole week searching the Internet for news that I think may be of interest to you — so you won’t have to. This newsletter is an aggregator — a service that aggregates news from other news sources. You can help our community by sharing any interesting news that you find.
Editorial Opinion pieces present only the opinions of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of any of advertisers or supporters. This newsletter is independent of any trade association.
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Microsoft sues U.S. government over data gag orders
Secret data demands have become routine, and that's unconstitutional, company argues; customers deserve to know.
By Gregg Keizer FOLLOW
Microsoft today asked a federal court to invalidate part of a 1986 law that it alleged has been abused by the government when authorities demand the company hand over customers' data, including documents, emails and other information stored in the cloud.
In a lawsuit targeting the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Microsoft asked for a judgment that would declare unconstitutional a section of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a 30-year-old law that government agencies increasingly cite when forcing email, Internet and cloud storage service providers to hand over data to aid criminal investigations.
Microsoft didn't object to the ECPA as a whole, but to what it said had become the routine issuing of gag orders alongside the demands for data.
"We believe that with rare exceptions consumers and businesses have a right to know when the government accesses their emails or records," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief legal officer, in a long post to a company blog Thursday. "Yet it's becoming routine for the U.S. government to issue orders that require email providers to keep these types of legal demands secret."
"This is a very aggressive move on Microsoft's part," said Michael Carroll, a professor of law and director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at the American University Washington College of Law, in Washington, D.C. "They're essentially saying, 'I want to violate the gag orders, but I don't want to be sued for doing that.' So they're disputing the constitutionality of the gag orders."
Microsoft ticked off statistics to make its point that secrecy had become habitual: In the last 18 months, the Redmond, Wash. company received 5,624 federal demands for customer information or data. Of those, 2,576, or 48%, were tagged with secrecy orders that prevented Microsoft from telling customers that it had been compelled to hand over their information. About 68% of the gag orders — 1,752 to be exact — had no end date. "This means that we effectively are prohibited forever from telling our customers that the government has obtained their data," Smith said.
In the complaint filed with a Seattle federal court, Microsoft said that was unacceptable.
"There may be exceptional circumstances when the government's interest in investigating criminal conduct justifies an order temporarily barring a provider from notifying a customer that the government has obtained the customer's private communications and data," the complaint read. "But Section 2705(b) [of the ECPA] sweeps too broadly."
Microsoft asked the court to strike the section on the grounds that it violates both the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.
"I think this is a smart strategy," Chris Calabrese, vice president of policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, said of Microsoft's lawsuit. "This is important for the courts, and judges, to work out because in a lot of ways, what we need is some clarification on the secrecy [aspects of the orders]."
Calling the ECPA "antiquated," Microsoft hammered on the impact of data demands and gag orders on cloud-based services, the fastest-growing part of its business.
"The government . . . has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations," Microsoft's lawyers asserted. "As individuals and business have moved their most sensitive information to the cloud, the government has increasingly adopted the tactic of obtaining the private digital documents of cloud customers not from the customers themselves, but through legal process directed at online cloud providers like Microsoft."
"Microsoft was like the frog in boiling water," said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. "[The gag orders] just got to be too routine. They saw it in individual cases, then in dozens, then hundreds, then thousands. They reached a breaking point, much like Apple did with unlocking orders."
In effect, what Microsoft said in its complaint is that the law has been grossly misused by the government, either through policy or practice. "Microsoft is arguing that this is a systemic problem, and gotten to the point where gag orders are issued on a blanket basis. It's interesting that they've taken the declaratory route, which is almost like a class action. This is a systemic problem [Microsoft argued], and it deserves a systemic solution," Dempsey said.
DOJ spokeswoman Emily Pierce declined to comment on the Microsoft complaint, saying, "We are reviewing the filing."
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Analyst Review Alert: Iridium Communications Inc. (IRDM)
Author: Tina Gumbley
Wall Street analysts have favorable assessment of Iridium Communications Inc. (IRDM), with a mean rating of 1.8. The stock is rated as buy by 3 analysts, with 1 outperform and 2 hold rating. The rating score is on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 stands for strong buy and 5 stands for strong sell.
For the current quarter, the 5 analysts offering adjusted EPS forecast have a consensus estimate of $0.18 a share, which would compare with $0.17 in the same quarter last year. They have a high estimate of $0.22 and a low estimate of $0.09. Revenue for the period is expected to total nearly $104.04M from $97.01M the year-ago period.
For the full year, 5 Wall Street analysts forecast this company would deliver earnings of $0.78 per share, with a high estimate of $0.9 and a low estimate of $0.42. It had reported earnings per share of $0.78 in the corresponding quarter of the previous year. Revenue for the period is expected to total nearly $432.85M versus 411.38M in the preceding year.
The analysts project the company to maintain annual growth of around 12.5 percent over the next five years as compared to an average growth rate of 1.26 percent expected for its competitors in the same industry.
Among the 3 analysts Thomson/First Call tracks, the 12-month average price target for IRDM is $13 but some analysts are projecting the price to go as high as $14. If the optimistic analysts are correct, that represents a 86 percent upside potential from the recent closing price of $7.51. Some sell-side analysts, particularly the bearish ones, have called for $12 price targets on shares of Iridium Communications Inc..
In the last reported results, the company reported earnings of $0.2 per share, while analysts were calling for share earnings of $0.18. It was an earnings surprise of 11.1 percent. In the matter of earnings surprises, the term Cockroach Effect is often implied. Cockroach Effect is a market theory that suggests that when a company reveals bad news to the public, there may be many more related negative events that have yet to be revealed. In the case of earnings surprises, if a company is suggesting a negative earnings surprise it means there are more to come.
Iridium Communications Inc. provides mobile voice and data communications services through satellite to businesses, the U.S. and foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, and consumers worldwide. It offers postpaid mobile voice and data satellite communications services; prepaid mobile voice satellite communications services; broadband data services; push-to-talk services; and machine-to-machine services for sending and receiving data from fixed and mobile assets in remote locations to a central monitoring station. The company also provides other services, such as inbound connections from the public switched telephone network, short message services, subscriber identity module, activation, customer reactivation, and other peripheral services. In addition, it offers voice and data solutions, including personnel tracking devices; asset tracking devices for equipment, vehicles, and aircraft; aircraft and submarine communications applications; specialized communications solutions for high-value individuals; mobile communications and data devices for the military and intelligence community, such as secure satellite handsets, as well as offers voice, netted voice, data, messaging, and paging services; and maintenance services for the department of defense's dedicated gateway. Further, the company provides satellite handsets, personal connectivity devices, voice and data modems, broadband data devices, and machine-to-machine data devices; various accessories for its devices that include batteries, holsters, earbud headphones, portable auxiliary antennas, antenna adaptors, USB data cables, and charging units; and engineering and support services. The company sells its products and services to commercial end users through wholesale distribution network, service providers, and value-added resellers and manufacturers. As of December 31, 2015, it had approximately 782,000 billable subscribers. The company was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in McLean, Virginia.
Author: Tina Gumbley
Disaster-Proven Paging for Public Safety
Paging system designs in the United States typically use a voice radio-style infrastructure. These systems are primarily designed for outdoor mobile coverage with modest indoor coverage. Before Narrowbanding, coverage wasn’t good, but what they have now is not acceptable! The high power, high tower approach also makes the system vulnerable. If one base station fails, a large area loses their paging service immediately!
Almost every technology went from analog to digital except fire paging. So it’s time to think about digital paging! The Disaster-Proven Paging Solution (DiCal) from Swissphone offers improved coverage, higher reliability and flexibility beyond anything that traditional analog or digital paging systems can provide.
Swissphone is the No. 1 supplier for digital paging solutions worldwide. The Swiss company has built paging networks for public safety organizations all over the world. Swissphone has more than 1 million pagers in the field running for years and years due to their renowned high quality.
DiCal is the digital paging system developed and manufactured by Swissphone. It is designed to meet the specific needs of public safety organizations. Fire and EMS rely on these types of networks to improve incident response time. DiCal systems are designed and engineered to provide maximum indoor paging coverage across an entire county. In a disaster situation, when one or several connections in a simulcast solution are disrupted or interrupted, the radio network automatically switches to fall back operating mode. Full functionality is preserved at all times. This new system is the next level of what we know as “Simulcast Paging” here in the U.S.
Swissphone offers high-quality pagers, very robust and waterproof. Swissphone offers the best sensitivity in the industry, and battery autonomy of up to three months. First responder may choose between a smart s.QUAD pager, which is able to connect with a smartphone and the Hurricane DUO pager, the only digital pager who offers text-to-voice functionality.
Bluetooth technology makes it possible to connect the s.QUAD with a compatible smartphone, and ultimately with various s.ONE software solutions from Swissphone. Thanks to Bluetooth pairing, the s.QUAD combines the reliability of an independent paging system with the benefits of commercial cellular network. Dispatched team members can respond back to the call, directly from the pager. The alert message is sent to the pager via paging and cellular at the same time. This hybrid solution makes the alert faster and more secure. Paging ensures alerting even if the commercial network fails or is overloaded.
Swissphone sets new standards in paging:
Swissphone provides a proven solution at an affordable cost. Do you want to learn more?
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Please see our web site for other products including Internet Messaging Gateways, Unified Messaging Servers, test equipment, and Paging Terminals.
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Selected portions of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, and/or the BloostonLaw Private Users Update — newsletters from the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP — are reproduced in this section with the firm’s permission.
Updated Antenna Structure Compliance Manual Available
BloostonLaw has updated its Antenna Structure Compliance Manual to incorporate recent changes in FCC Rules governing towers and other antenna structures, including the rule making that modified requirements governing ASR posting and monitoring for tower lighting outages, among other things. We have also added an update on FCC enforcement actions against tower owners/users, and related compliance instructions (including a recent “Best Practices” circular issued by the FCC and OSHA concerning equipment installation on antenna structures). The cost of the manual for a new purchaser is $750; for clients that have already purchased the manual in the past, the updated version is only $250.
Comment Deadline Established for Rate-of-Return FNPRM
On April 12, the FCC published the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking portion of its Rate-of-Return Order. Comments are due May 12, and reply comments are due June 13.
As we reported in the previous edition of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, the FNPRM seeks comment on proposed rule changes to the accounting and affiliate transaction rules to “eliminate inefficiencies and provide guidance to rate-of-return carriers regarding [the FCC’s] expectations for appropriate expenditures.” The FNPRM also seeks comment on:
Carriers interested in filing comments on the FNPRM should contact the firm without delay. We note, however, that the FCC has only published the FNPRM portion and not the Order portion of the Rate-of-Return Order and FNPRM , and as such the effective dates for those rules adopted in the Order portion are not yet established.
FCC Releases ACAM 2.2; Commences Challenge Process to Competitive Coverage
On April 7, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing the release of a new version of the Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM), v2.2, which incorporates the inputs and modifications recently adopted by the Commission in the recent Rate-of-Return Reform Order (See BloostonLaw Telecom Update of April 11). Additionally, the Public Notice announced the release of four illustrative reports based on the new ACAM, and the commencement of the challenge process. Comments to challenge the coverage data for competitors are due April 28.
ACAM 2.2. Version 2.2 of the A-CAM utilizes an input value of 9.75 percent for the cost of money, incorporates updated broadband coverage to reflect the publicly available June 2015 FCC Form 477 data, and excludes from support calculations census blocks where the incumbent provider reports at least 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream (10/1 Mbps) using either fiber to the premises (FTTP) or cable technology. This information is intended to assist rate-of-return carriers that are considering whether to elect to receive model-based support; however, v2.2 of A-CAM is not the final version of the model. The final version of the model will be announced in a subsequent Public Notice, after the completion of the challenge process (discussed below) and final updates to the broadband coverage data in the model.
Illustrative Reports. The FCC also released four illustrative reports. Report 6.1 shows the preliminary estimates in v2.2 of the state-level offer of model-based support for each carrier that is eligible to elect model-based support because it meets the condition that it has deployed 10/1 Mbps broadband to less than 90 percent of the eligible locations in its study area(s) in the state. Report 6.2 shows preliminary estimates for the specific broadband obligations for each individual carrier, and its calculated density based on its submitted study area boundaries, land area, and Census housing unit data. Report 6.3 shows, based on Form 477 data submitted through February 19, 2016, carriers that have deployed 10/1 Mbps broadband to less than 90 percent of their eligible locations, to 90 percent or more of their eligible locations, or with no locations eligible for the offer of model-based support. Report 6.4 shows the support for each study area consistent with the format used in previously released illustrative reports. Copies of these reports can be obtained here .
Challenge Process. As noted previously, the broadband coverage for unsubsidized competitors based on June 2015 FCC Form 477 data will be subject to a streamlined challenge process. Competing providers must meet the recent 2016 urban rate survey limits, as well as the latest minimum usage allowance requirements, in the relevant census blocks in order to be deemed an “unsubsidized competitor.” Competitors that have made any corrections to their FCC Form 477 June 2015 data since February 19, 2016 are specifically invited to file comments informing the FCC of such corrections, as well as competitors that have newly deployed broadband in particular census blocks since June 2015 As noted above, comments to challenge the coverage data for competitors are due April 28.
Law & Regulation
FCC Plans Largest Fine to Date for Lifeline Overbilling
On April 7, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau announced that it plans to fine Total Call Mobile $51,070,322 for apparently enrolling tens of thousands of duplicate and ineligible consumers into the Lifeline program. This is the largest fine that the FCC has proposed against a Lifeline provider. Further, the FCC has indicated in its formal notice that it may initiate proceedings to revoke Total Call’s authorizations to operate as a Lifeline provider and a common carrier.
According to a press release, the FCC alleges that since 2014, Total Call has requested and received an estimated $9.7 million dollars in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund for duplicate or ineligible consumers despite repeated and explicit warnings from its own employees, in some cases compliance specialists, that company sales agents were engaged in widespread enrollment fraud.
A copy of the full Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) is available here. It is important to note that an NAL details the FCC’s allegations of unlawful conduct, and is not a final finding.
FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for April Open Meeting
On April 7, the FCC’s Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the following items are tentatively on the agenda for the April Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 28, 2016:
The Open Meeting is scheduled to commence at 10:30 a.m., and will be webcast live at www.fcc.gov/live .
Enforcement Bureau’s Wireless Top-10 Violations List
At this month’s Land Mobile Communications Committee (LMCC) annual meeting, the deputy chief of the Enforcement Bureau presented his “Top-10 List” for wireless violations. Interestingly enough, there was a common theme with most of the violation types that the Enforcement Bureau discussed — namely, interference. Absent from the list however were antenna tower violations which we know remain an important compliance issue for the FCC nonetheless.
Any client experiencing interference issues — whether receiving interference or being accused of causing it — should contact our office promptly in order to minimize the potential for the filing of a formal complaint with the FCC. Additionally, if you have radio licenses that are in the incorrect name, please contact our office so that we can assist you in updating your license record — whether it be a name change or license assignment/transfer.
Municipal Broadband Study Released
On April 6, the State Government Leadership Foundation issued a study entitled The Impact of Government-Owned Broadband Networks on Private Investment and Consumer Welfare. The study, authored by Dr. George Ford, Chief Economist of the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Public Policy Studies, proclaims to “provide an economic framework that aids in understanding what municipal broadband is and what it is not; and how one might reasonably support it or how one might reasonably reject it.”
According to the study:
A copy of the full study can be found here .
Second Public Workshop on Video Marketplace to Be Held on April 25
On April 12, the FCC’s Media Bureau announced the agenda for its upcoming workshop to examine competition, diversity, and innovation in the video marketplace. The workshop will be held at the FCC on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 10:00 am, and will be broadcast live with open captioning over the Internet from the FCC's web page at www.fcc.gov/live .
The workshop will consist of two panels: first, Chris Kyle, Vice President, Industry Relations and Regulatory, Shentel; Heather McCallion, Vice President, Programming, Atlantic Broadband; Judy Meyka, Executive Vice President, Programming, National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC); Duke Milunovich, Sales and Marketing Director, Volcano Vision, Inc.; and Jimmy Todd, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, NexTech will discuss challenges faced by smaller multichannel video programming distributors that affect carriage of independent programming.
After lunch, Eric Easter, Chief Executive Officer, BLQBOX Digital; Michael Fletcher, Chief Executive Officer, Ride Television Network; Clifford Franklin, Chief Executive Officer, GFN-TV; Patrick Gottsch, Founder and President, RFD-TV; Brian Newton, Creative Director and Head of New Media, The Africa Channel; and Daphna Ziman, President and Creative Director, Cinemoi will discuss challenges faced by independent programmers seeking carriage on video distribution platforms.
MAY 31: FCC FORM 395, EMPLOYMENT REPORT. Common carriers, including wireless carriers, with 16 or more full-time employees must file their annual Common Carrier Employment Reports (FCC Form 395) by May 31. This report tracks carrier compliance with rules requiring recruitment of minority employees. Further, the FCC requires all common carriers to report any employment discrimination complaints they received during the past year. That information is also due on May 31. The FCC encourages carriers to complete the discrimination report requirement by filling out Section V of Form 395, rather than submitting a separate report.
JULY 1: FCC FORM 481 (CARRIER ANNUAL REPORTING DATA COLLECTION FORM). All eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) must report the information required by Section 54.313, which includes outage, unfulfilled service request, and complaint data, broken out separately for voice and broadband services, information on the ETC’s holding company, operating companies, ETC affiliates and any branding in response to section 54.313(a)(8); its CAF-ICC certification, if applicable; its financial information, if a privately held rate-of-return carrier; and its satellite backhaul certification, if applicable. Form 481 must not only be filed with USAC, but also with the FCC and the relevant state commission and tribal authority, as appropriate. Although USAC treats the filing as confidential, filers must seek confidential treatment separately with the FCC and the relevant state commission and tribal authority if confidential treatment is desired.
JULY 1: MOBILITY FUND PHASE I ANNUAL REPORT. Winning bidders in Auction 901 that are authorized to receive Mobility Fund Phase I support are required to submit to the Commission an annual report each year on July 1 for the five years following authorization. Each annual report must be submitted to the Office of the Secretary of the Commission, clearly referencing WT Docket No. 10-208; the Universal Service Administrator; and the relevant state commissions, relevant authority in a U.S. Territory, or Tribal governments, as appropriate. The information and certifications required to be included in the annual report are described in Section 54.1009 of the Commission’s rules.
JULY 29: CARRIER IDENTIFICATION CODE (CIC) REPORTS. Carrier Identification Code (CIC) Reports must be filed by the last business day of July (this year, July 29). These reports are required of all carriers who have been assigned a CIC code by NANPA. Failure to file could result in an effort by NANPA to reclaim it, although according to the Guidelines this process is initiated with a letter from NANPA regarding the apparent non-use of the CIC code. The assignee can then respond with an explanation. (Guidelines Section 6.2). The CIC Reporting Requirement is included in the CIC Assignment Guidelines, produced by ATIS. According to section 1.4 of that document: At the direction of the NANPA, the access providers and the entities who are assigned CICs will be requested to provide access and usage information to the NANPA, on a semi-annual basis to ensure effective management of the CIC resource. (Holders of codes may respond to the request at their own election). Access provider and entity reports shall be submitted to NANPA no later than January 31 for the period ending December 31, and no later than July 31 for the period ending June 30. It is also referenced in the NANPA Technical Requirements Document, which states at 7.18.6: CIC holders shall provide a usage report to the NANPA per the industry CIC guidelines … The NAS shall be capable of accepting CIC usage reports per guideline requirements on January 31 for the period ending December 31 and no later than July 31 for the period ending June 30. These reports may also be mailed and accepted by the NANPA in paper form. Finally, according to the NANPA website, if no local exchange carrier reports access or usage for a given CIC, NANPA is obliged to reclaim it. The semi-annual utilization and access reporting mechanism is described at length in the guidelines.
AUGUST 1: FCC FORM 507, UNIVERSAL SERVICE QUARTERLY LINE COUNT UPDATE. Line count updates are required to recalculate a carrier's per line universal service support, and is filed with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). This information must be submitted on July 31 each year by all rate-of-return incumbent carriers, and on a quarterly basis if a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier (CETC) has initiated service in the rate-of-return incumbent carrier’s service area and reported line count data to USAC in the rate-of-return incumbent carrier’s service area, in order for the incumbent carrier to be eligible to receive Interstate Common Line Support (ICLS). Because July 31 falls on a Sunday this year, the filing will be due August 1. This quarterly filing is due July 31 and covers lines served as of December 31, 2013. Incumbent carriers filing on a quarterly basis must also file on September 30 (for lines served as of March 31, 2014); December 30 (for lines served as of June 30, 2014), and March 31, 2015, for lines served as of September 30, 2014).
|This newsletter is not intended to provide legal advice. Those interested in more information should contact the firm. For additional information, please contact Hal Mordkofsky at 202-828-5520 or email@example.com .|
Canadian police have had master key to BlackBerry's encryption since 2010
And it was used to intercept and read messages
By Nick Statt on April 14, 2016 05:44 pm
Canadian police have been in possession of a BlackBerry master encryption key since 2010, according to a pair of blockbuster reports today from Vice News and its sister site Motherboard . The reports say the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) used the key in a criminal investigation between 2010 and 2012 to intercept over one million BlackBerry messages sent using its proprietary BBM service.
It's unclear how the RCMP obtained the key because discussions on the matter in court remain heavily redacted in court documents. But those documents now confirm police keep a server in Ottawa to "simulates a mobile device that receives a message intended for [the rightful recipient]," Vice reports. From there, the "BlackBerry interception and processing system" decrypts the message using the master key. It's also unclear whether the key has since been changed, and if Canadian police forces are continuing to use the interception system.
BlackBerry has for some time used a global encryption key it says only it possesses to seal off BBM messages to and from its devices. The company has shied away from saying these communications are completely protected , and CEO John Chen has said in the past his company is willing to cooperate with law enforcement under special circumstances. "We reject the notion that tech companies should refuse reasonable, lawful access requests," he wrote on BlackBerry's blog last year. Nonetheless, the revelations are chilling, raising the possibility that Canadian BlackBerry owners have for years been vulnerable to government surveillance. As Vice writes:
It's worth noting BlackBerry's enterprise-grade encryption for businesses allows those companies to use their own key. So the RCMP's system does not appear to allow Canada police to decrypt corporate communications. However, the reports explain how thousands of BlackBerry users' messages were scooped up as part of "Project Clemenza," a RCMP investigation into a mafia-related murder. After members of a Montreal crime gang pled guilty in 2011 to having played a role in the murder, some 3,000 court documents were made public and later obtained by Vice.
Device encryption is a hot topic in the tech industry given the recent showdown between Apple and the FBI . Whether tech companies should cooperate with law enforcement by either creating backdoors into devices or aiding police in special investigations is a legal grey area. Apple refused the government's requests to break into the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook and wanted the matter settled by Congress . Yet the FBI managed to break into the device using a third-party method , leaving the situation unsettled. A separate case in New York regarding an iPhone involved in a methamphetamine smuggling case is set to continue as both Apple and the FBI are trying to set a legal precedent for future cases.
Whether BlackBerry has worked closely with the Canadian government, and whether it continues to do so, is an open question. The company declined to comment when asked by Vice, as did the RCMP. But the documents indicate the RCMP and BlackBerry have communicated about intercepting messages and the phone maker may have provided assistance. In one transcript, RCMP inspector Mark Flynn testified to advise against revealing details about the encryption key because it could harm BlackBerry's business. "It is not a good marketing thing to say we work with the police," Flynn reportedly said.
Update at 6:27PM ET on Thursday, April 14th: Clarified that BlackBerry encrypts messages with a global encryption key sent using its BBM service, not standard text messages or messages sent using other apps.
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“It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”
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Azaleas in bloom on the first day of spring at Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina
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